According to a press release of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband; ‘vzbv’) dated 19 July 2017, the German Federal Supreme Court (‘FSC’) issued a judgment that held it is unreasonable for consumers if the only payment method offered free of charge is ‘Sofortüberweisung’ (FSC, judgment of 18 July 2017, case no. KZR 39/16; not yet published). This means that at least one customary means of payment other than ‘Sofortüberweisung’ needs to be offered to the consumer free of charge.

At the same time, the FSC clarified that the business model of ‘Sofortüberweisung’ is permitted.

Underlying case

vzbv sued the provider of a German online flight booking portal (‘Booking Portal’). On the Booking Portal, only the payment method ‘Sofortüberweisung’ was free of charge. A consumer who selected to pay via other means of payment, such as credit cards, was charged with an additional credit card fee. This concept is used by a significant number of online shops and platforms that offer their goods and services to German consumers.

vzbv’ legal action aimed to secure a permanent injunction against the Booking Portal, to prohibit it from offering only one payment method free of charge, namely, the payment initiation service ‘Sofortüberweisung’, which requires the consumer to provide their online banking PIN and a transaction number.

Although the District Court in Frankfurt am Main made an adverse decision against the Booking Portal, the Court of Appeal in Frankfurt am Main dismissed vzbv’s action, stressing that ‘Sofortüberweisung’ is a widespread means of payment. Now, finally, the FSC has upheld the first instance decision from the District Court in Frankfurt am Main.Continue Reading German Federal Supreme Court: ‘Sofortüberweisung’ must not be the only free-of-charge payment method in B2C contracts